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Top Historic and Arthouse Movie Theatres Around the World

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Published May 27th 2014
Top Historic and Arthouse Movie Theatres Around the World

The historic Pelham Picture House in Pelham, NY
The historic Pelham Picture House in Pelham, NY / Photo by Anthony22 of Wikimedia Commons

Gone are the days of the historic picturehouse where people used to gather, watch and chat about a film as today's generation increasing watch movies free or very cheaply from home. Netflix alone has some 44 million subscribers at last count. Even modern-day cinemas are struggling for a share of the movie-goer dollar. People have chosen the convenience of anytime, anywhere viewing to the physical joy of being part of an audience. Thanks to diehard operators of historic, independent or arthouse movie theaters, we can still enjoy the old fashioned picturehouse. While there are still several dotted around the world, here are 7 historic and arthouse cinemas in different cities to get you off the internet and out to the movies.

Roxie Theater - San Francisco

roxie theater san francisco
Photo courtesy of Roxie Theater

This is America's oldest continuously running theater and the world's second oldest. Opened in 1909, the Roxie has been operating as an arthouse theater since the 1970s. Unlike the mainstream venues, it supports the local and international film culture by featuring independent, experimental, repertory, foreign, and documentary films. It is well known for showing films by emerging and controversial filmmakers, and presenting film in conjunction with music, performance, visual art, comedy and food and wine festivals. As a non-profit, the Roxie depends on ticket sales and donations to keep it open.

Cinéma La Pagode - Paris

Cinéma La Pagode à Paris
Cinéma La Pagode à Paris / Photo by Téléversé par LPLT of Wikimedia Commons

La Pagode is no ordinary arthouse theater. It is actually an antique Japanese pagoda built in 1896 as a private concern. Saved from demolition in the 1970s, it became a movie theater and remains today as one of the few "temples" of independent cinema in Paris featuring local films in original versions, arthouse directors, Japanese cinema and film masterclasses and debates. In addition to the theaters, this exotic building is like a museum with stained glass windows, chandeliers, paintings, tapestries and a small oriental garden serving tea.

Cine Joia - Rio De Janerio

cine joia rio de janeiro
Photo courtesy of Cine Joia

The oldest operating street theater in Rio is known not only for its high quality programming but also its support for other forms of artistic expression. This 1960s cinema located in Copacabana beach was restored in 2011. Today, the 87-seat theater screens Brazilian and international films, poetry, music and drama. It also champions local and international cultural events to bring people closer to Rio's heritage and foreign cultures, and educate students through documentaries.

Scala Cinema - Bangkok

scala cinema bangkok
Photo by Igor Prahin of Flickr

This is Bangkok's oldest single screen cinema, build in 1967. Located in Siam Square, it was once one of 3 independent cinemas. One was burned down during the 2010 riots leaving Scala and Lido. This 1,000 seat theater reflects the decades old cinema of Bangkok - 2 old ticket booths still welcome guests instead of computer screens, high ceilings in the marble foyer and staff wear uniforms from another era. It has a long history of showing unique films at affordable prices. Today it caters to the modern-day audience with a wide variety including Oscar and Golden Globe winners, good art films and documentaries.

Duke of York's Picture House - Brighton

Duke of York's Picture House
The front of the Duke of York's Picture House / Photo by Hassocks5489 of Wikimedia Commons

This art house cinema in Brighton, England lays claim to being the oldest cinema in continuous use in the UK, with the Phoenix Cinema in London as the second oldest. It was also one of the first cinemas in the world to be opened in 1910 and the building's exterior remains largely unaltered since then. It's interior however had been modified from 800 seats to 278 seats over the years to provide more comfortable seating and food and beverage. Duke of York's Picture House has been operating as an arts cinema since 1981 and plays host to the annual Brighton Film Festival. It also hosts events like late night cult screenings, all night Lord of the Rings marathons and fancy-dress film premieres. It was voted best Cinema in the UK in 2012.

Regal Cinema - Mumbai

regal cinema mumbai
Regal Cinema, Mumbai / Photo by Karthik Nadar of Wikimedia Commons

This Art Deco picturehouse was Asia's first air-conditioned theater and also one of the first places to watch English language films in India. Its interior housed an opulent lobby with mirror-lined walls and motifs of sunrays in pale orange and jade green decorated the main auditorium. It was the highlight of the week or month for many British aristocrats, artists and students in the 1930s in Mumbai. It was about enjoying the refreshments, finger food and music playing in the background as much as watching the movie. Today, Regal Cinema shows a mix of English and Hindi films to cater to a modern-day audience.

Golden Age Cinema & Bar - Sydney

Golden Age Cinema & Bar
Photo courtesy of Golden Age Cinema & Bar

This 55 seat basement cinema located in the 'Hollywood Quarter' of Sydney is a unique blend of old fashion movie going with modern day film appreciation. Unused since 1971, the theatrette was rejuvenated in 2013 with installations of a 1930s inspired bar and antique theater chairs. Restored and reinvented, the old screening room of the heritage-listed Paramount Pictures building in Surry Hills host two screenings a night, with matinees on the weekend. The cinema also supports cultural events. During the Chinese New Year celebrations in Sydney, the cinema joined in with movies and video installations from China.
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Where: Historic and arthouse cinemas around the world
Your Comment
Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka, NZ. Not as historic as these, but a lot of fun.
by Kathleen (score: 0|4) 1966 days ago
See the rejuvenated Mt Vic Flicks at Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains in NSW.
by quiet (score: 1|20) 1965 days ago
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